A trip to the emergency department of UConn John Dempsey Hospital for severe jaundice led to a diagnosis of bile duct obstruction for Avon’s Jay Booth. After some further testing, a stent was placed in the bile duct and his gallbladder removed.
When the stent was removed from his bile duct, it collapsed and he found himself back in the emergency room, where a CT scan was performed and he accidentally found a visible mass on Buth’s pancreas.
Booth was followed by Dr. Murali Dharan, an assistant professor of gastroenterology at UConn Health, who commissioned a PET scan. PET scan shows that the tumor is at a very early stage and is localized in the pancreas, providing a good prognosis.
“What I like about UConn Health is that they keep looking and aren’t happy until they find the answer,” Butt said.
During digestion, your pancreas produces pancreatic juices called enzymes. These enzymes break down sugars, fats and starches. Your pancreas also helps your digestive system by producing hormones. Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the pancreas, and pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
- Tobacco use
- Being overweight
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace
- Age – Almost all patients are over 45 years old. About two-thirds are at least 65 years old. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 70 years.
- Gender – Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women.
- Race – African Americans are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than whites.
- Family history
- Hereditary genetic syndromes
- Abdominal pain radiating to the back.
- Loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss.
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Light stools.
- Dark colored urine.
- Itchy skin.
- A new diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that is becoming increasingly difficult to control.
- Blood clots.
Booth met with Dr. Pragna Capadia, Assistant Professor of Medical Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Carol and Ray Neag Cancer Center at UConn Health, and Dr. David McFadden, Professor and Chair of Surgery at UConn Health for to determine his treatment plan.
Booth began eight rounds of chemotherapy, which will be followed by a combination of chemo-radiation. He was lucky that there were no serious side effects from the chemotherapy, which included five hours at the infusion center and another 48 hours at home.
“Apart from cancer, I was in the best shape of my life,” says But.
From there, Booth will have a Whipple procedure this summer. This is the most common operation to remove cancer in the head of the pancreas. During this operation, the surgeon removes the head of the pancreas and sometimes the body of the pancreas. Close structures such as the small intestine, part of the bile duct, gallbladder, lymph nodes near the pancreas, and sometimes part of the stomach are also removed. The remaining bile duct and pancreas are then attached to the small intestine so that bile and digestive enzymes can still enter the small intestine. The ends of the small intestine (or stomach and small intestine) are then reattached so that food can pass through the digestive tract (gut).
Dr. Judith Cooney, a health psychologist and associate professor of psychiatry at the UConn Health Cancer Center, practices health psychology, a specialized field that applies psychological principles and evidence-based treatments to help manage the psychosocial impact of medical and health problems and change in health behavior.
In health psychology, Cooney works with cancer patients at all stages of treatment to help deal with cancer, assess and diagnose, treat and post-acute treatment during survival to return to life and thrive after cancer.
“Survival is often the least supported chapter of the road to cancer,” says Dr Cooney. “It’s a transformative and scary time after cancer changed their lives.”
Cooney is working with Booth to help him cope with the challenge of being diagnosed with cancer, and his difficult phases of acute treatment and work will continue until the post-treatment phase.
“Mr. Booth has been amazing at learning how to manage distress and transform and grow through cancer,” says Cooney. “His story is inspiring.”
But, who sees the weekly Cooney, says, “She’s amazing and she’s helped me on many levels outside of cancer.”
But now he has a new perspective on life, focusing on the little things, the important people in his life and finding joy in everything. He credits the tools in the “toolkit” Cooney gave him to go through with a positive outlook.
“If I hadn’t had problems with the gallbladder trying to kill me, we might not have found out so early, it actually saved me,” Butt said. Now we would have had a very different conversation if it hadn’t been opened so early.
“I’m on the moon from caring at UConn, it’s world-class,” Butt said. “I love nurses and I can’t say enough about how wonderful they are – they do God’s work.”